Mexico: Supreme Court rejects energy referendum

In a 9-1 decision on Oct. 30, Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) rejected two proposals to put President Enrique Peña Nieto's "energy reform"—a program for a partial privatization of the country's energy industry—to a vote in an official referendum. The court agreed on Oct. 17 to consider a referendum proposal from the center-left National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), which had presented a petition with two million signatures; a larger center-left party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), made a similar proposal. The justices ruled that voting on Peña Nieto's energy program would violate a constitutional prohibition against referenda on federal revenue policies. The two parties had argued that the vote concerned the use of national resources, not revenue. (New York Times, Oct. 30, from AP; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 31)

In other news, according to a report released on Oct. 30 by Michael Horowitz, the inspector general for the US Department of Justice, US agents and prosecutors allowed grenade components to be smuggled across the border to Mexican drug cartels sometime between 2008 and 2011 in a way reminiscent of the bungled Operation Fast and Furious, which let about 2,000 firearms pass into Mexico during 2009 and 2010. On two occasions agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sought to arrest Jean Baptiste Kingery, a suspected weapons smuggler, but were turned down by the US attorney's office in Arizona on grounds of insufficient evidence. Unable to arrest Kingery, the agents tried to set up a sting operation by marking grenade components that the suspect was planning to buy. In June 2010 Border Patrol agents stopped Kingery and found 114 grenade hulls, 114 grenade fuses and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition. ATF and Border Patrol agents then argued over how to handle the case; one witness said they sounded "like two gangs." Finally the ATF and federal prosecutors in Arizona decided to turn Kingery into a witness and informant; they released him, and he fled to Mexico. The Mexican authorities finally arrested him in August 2011, supposedly with US aid.

US agents lost track of the grenade components, but after a shootout with cartel members in March 2011, Mexican soldiers found grenade fragments with markings similar to those used by the ATF, according to Horowitz's report. (LJ, Oct. 31, from Notimex; Los Angeles Times, Oct. 31)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 2.